Sinclair House is finally coming to town


INNISFAIL – A year ago the future of the pioneer Sinclair House appeared grim. The Innisfail and District Historical Society had all but given up trying to save the 125-year-old home due to insufficient restoration funds.

But the community rallied after the project’s plight became known through the media. Private funding began to pour in. Tradesmen offered their services for free. The town even approved a grant to help.

And sometime later this afternoon the pioneer house of Isabella (Bella) Sinclair, the first Caucasian female to settle in Central Alberta, is expected to arrive this afternoon at its new forever home at the Innisfail and District Historical Village.

The two-storey log structure is being hauled 13 kilometres from the Thomson acreage west of town by Warkentin Building Movers, a company based in Calmar, Alta., that painstakingly prepared and secured the dilapidated pioneer relic over three days last week.

John Thomson, who donated the pioneer home to the historical village and is paying the $30,000 transportation cost, could not be happier.

“I am relieved,” said Thomson, who endured several delays over the past two years to finally see the house being delivered to Innisfail. Thomson, 84, grew up in the two-storey log home many decades ago after his family acquired it from the Sinclair family.

“They have been digging a lot of dirt and pushing beams underneath, generally getting things lined up,” said Thomson, noting the pioneer home has been unoccupied since the late 1980s. “They will lift it up and put the dolly wheels underneath the beams and lift it out of the hole.”

While Thomson was watching Warkentin movers prepare for the move, Lawrence Gould, the treasurer of the historical society, was equally ecstatic, photographing every detail of the move’s preparation.

“It is finally happening,” said Gould, adding the house still had today’s four and a half hour journey before any full celebration could take place. He said the home will first be transported about a mile east at about 30 to 35 kilometres per hour, turn north on a range road for another kilometre and then east again until reaching Highway 54. The journey will then head south for several kilometres until reaching 42nd Street on the far west side of Innisfail. The house will then be transported east again until it arrives at the historical village at 51A Avenue. The Sinclair home will then be placed on a recently built foundation at the southeast corner of the historical village. Along the way, FortisAlberta is helping by ensuring up to nine power lines are not blocking the move.

Wayne Warkentin, the moving company owner, said while he has moved historical structures in the past, the Sinclair House had its own unique issues for both preparation and transporting.

He said the age of the structure and the rot of the original wood presented a special challenge, noting the floor joists are not really joists but pioneer era logs. He said the structure had to be extensively braced and secured with outside cables, including steel bracketing at the four corners of the structure.

“We’ve done everything we can to help and now we will lift it and play it out to see how much rot comes with it or not come with it,” he said. “We do everything extra. We put extra cross beams in, put in extra shimming in, extra bracing in, and brackets along the outside. A lot of guys don’t.

“You can’t add extra after. You have to do it beforehand,” he added.

When all the preparation was done to secure the structure, Warkentin and his crew then carefully lifted the pioneer house about five feet from the foundation and secured it for its journey to Innisfail. The crew then left the site for a few days before coming back this morning for the big move.

“They (historical structures) are more time consuming because you have to be super, super careful with them,” said Warkentin. “There is more challenges and you have to be a lot more patient with them. You have to change your frame of mind and do everything you can with them.”

Wayne Warkentin, owner of Warkentin Building Movers

“They (historical structures) are more time consuming because you have to be super, super careful with them. There is more challenges and you have to be a lot more patient with them.”


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Johnnie Bachusky

Johnnie Bachusky joined the Innisfail Province as editor in 2013. He covers Innisfail and Red Deer County news, police, crime and municipal politics. He is also a photographer and columnist.